Convenience Retail Industry’s Message to Capitol Hill

This week at the NACS Government Relations Conference, more than 130 convenience retail stakeholders will meet with members of Congress to communicate the top industry issues.

March 14, 2016

WASHINGTON – This week the NACS Government Relations Conference kicks off in Washington, D.C., where more than 130 industry stakeholders, including convenience retailers, state association representatives and NACS supplier members, will advocate on behalf of their businesses and the industry as a whole before members of Congress and their staffs.

This event is an important opportunity for the industry to share with legislators concerns about issues and regulations that influence the convenience retail industry. The top industry issues participants will be discussing include:

The Obama administration and several federal agencies are actively pushing for new labor regulations. In July 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a new rule to update the regulations governing which employees are eligible for overtime pay. Today, employers are required to pay overtime for all employees earning $23,660 or less per year. Under the proposed rule, that salary threshold would increase and require businesses to pay overtime for all employees earning $50,440 or less per year. In its proposal, DOL chose to reject longstanding methodology that considered differences in regional labor markets and across various industries when setting the overtime salary threshold. Instead, DOL chose to set the salary threshold in its proposal based on nationwide data.

NACS believes that the threshold must be established in a manner that is appropriate for the particular industry and geographic region in which the employee is working. Industry stakeholders are encouraging members of Congress to ask DOL why it has rejected traditional methodology that takes regional and industry variation into consideration, and has chosen to propose a salary threshold based on national data.

Menu Labeling
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s menu-labeling rule is onerous for convenience retailers to comply with. Implementation of the rule has been delayed until one year after the FDA issues its final guidance, which the agency has yet to do. Even with the delay, problems with the rule remain. Industry stakeholders are asking members of Congress to support the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, authored by Representatives Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) in the House (H.R. 2017), and by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME) in the Senate (S. 2217). Both bills would amend the rules and make compliance possible, and enactment would result in consumers gaining more nutrition information and a greater amount of choices.

Online Gaming
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice dramatically re-interpreted the 1961 Wire Act, which prohibited online gambling. Under this unprecedented decision, the DOJ declared that the Wire Act only prohibits online sports betting but does not prohibit other online gambling, including lotteries. This re-interpretation undermined congressional actions that had been taken during the 50 years in which DOJ took the position that the Wire Act made all gambling over the wires, and online, illegal. In an effort to reverse the DOJ’s re-interpretation of the law, industry stakeholders are asking members of Congress to support the Restoration of America’s Wire Act in the House (H.R. 707) and Senate (S. 1668).

Data Security: PIN
The threat of data breaches is a problem for every type of business. Data thieves are targeting merchants, including convenience and fuel retailers, to steal consumer payment card information. These criminals range from individual hackers to highly sophisticated organized crime groups. Technology has allowed crime syndicates, many from overseas, to steal payment information and commit fraud outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement.

As policy discussions on data security continue, Congress should not only consider what happens after a data breach occurs, but also how to prevent breaches and fraud. PIN is the most secure authentication technology currently available, and retailers should have the option to require PIN on credit and debit card transactions—the same protection provided at ATMs. Industry stakeholders are asking members of Congress to ensure that businesses are able to protect consumers’ personal information with the best readily available technology, which is PIN.

On February 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) published a proposed rule altering eligibility requirements for retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—the largest anti-hunger program in the country. While the proposal codifies the 2014 Farm Bill provisions, which NACS supported, it also makes other changes to retailer eligibility requirements that Congress never intended to address in the 2014 Farm Bill. The proposal would impede neighborhood retailers’ ability to participate in the program, which in turn would hinder food accessibility for SNAP recipients that use their benefits at these small format retail locations.

Industry stakeholders are communicating to members of Congress that convenience stores play a fundamental role in SNAP, particularly for low-income Americans who live in rural or urban environments. By making it increasingly difficult for small format retailers to participate in SNAP, the proposal would essentially punish SNAP beneficiaries by requiring them to travel outside of their local neighborhoods where larger format retailers may not exist.